Five Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: Is anybody happy in Houston?

Associated Press
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If you didn’t watch the four NBA games on the slate Tuesday because you were busy stuffing your face with carbs, I understand. We’ve got you covered. Here are five things to know from an NBA Tuesday.

1) Is anybody happy in Houston? Not after loss to Kings. Dwight Howard was rumored to be unhappy in Houston, not enjoying taking a back seat to James Harden. Howard denied those rumors vehemently, but I’d be more worried if he were happy with how the Rockets are playing right now. Or how he is playing on offense. Tuesday night, Howard got fewer touches than Trevor Ariza (Howard had 48) and got off just seven shots, hitting two on his way to four points (foul trouble was part of that). Six of his seven shots were contested. Howard’s opposite number at the five, DeMarcus Cousins, had 26 and 12 on the night, leading a Kings team that controlled the boards and played hard (without the suspended Rajon Rondo). The Rockets turned the ball over 22 times and lost to the Sacramento Kings 107-97. This tweet from ESPN’s Calvin Watkins sums up Howard and the Rockets well.

Or, there was this that paints another accurate picture of the Rockets: Down 15 points with about five minutes left in the game, must-follow NBA analyst Nate Duncan wondered if the Rockets were about to pull off one of their late-game comebacks — this team tries hard the final six minutes or so of games. They are talented enough that it gets them wins. Not this time. Not often enough. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff was so concerned Tuesday that he showed both Howard and Harden the bench trying to light a fire under what has too often been a team playing disinterested basketball. At this point in the season, it’s fair to question if that message was heard, and even if it was will the results last more than two games? What should worry Rockets fans is that their climb back into the West playoffs (they were 12-12 before two losses this week) came during the soft part of the schedule. That is about to end. And the unhappiness in Houston could be growing in the coming weeks.

2) Rudy Gay had the dunk of the night. The Rockets might not have been having fun, but the Kings sure were. That includes Rudy Gay, who starts the break, gets the ball to Omri Casspi, who gives it back for a monster slam the Rockets certainly didn’t think was fun.

3) Cavaliers handle Celtics, but Iman Shumpert suffers groin injury. The Cavaliers keep on winning despite the fact they just can’t get healthy. Cleveland took charge of the game in Boston with a 17-2 run in the third quarter and went on to win 89-77. LeBron James had 24 points, Kevin Love 20. Another quality win for the Cavaliers. But the bad news is just-returned Shumpert tweaked his groin. After the game, Shumpert said he was fine but the Cavaliers said Shumpert is out Thursday when the Cavaliers take on the Thunder. Not good.

4) The Bucks beat the Warriors last week, fall to the Lakers this week. Last Saturday night against Golden State, there was a crispness, an energy to the way the Bucks played, particularly on defense. That must not have boarded the plane with them from Milwaukee. The Bucks — without Greg Monroe — were listless and a step slow on defense. Kobe Bryant looked young(er) and had 22, while rookie D'Angelo Russell showed off some pick-and-roll skills on his way to 19 points. There wasn’t much to like about the Bucks’ performance. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists and was just solid all around. Michael Carter-Williams had 19 points but needed 18 shots to get there. They better bring more energy against the Clippers on Wednesday or that will get ugly fast.

5) Larry Nance Jr. made a poster and John Henson was in it. Everyone talks about young Lakers D’Angelo Russell (who looked good running the pick-and-roll Tuesday), Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson. But another LA rookie Larry Nance Jr. has impressed as well — he looks like a future rotation player in the league. Don’t take my word for it, ask the Bucks and John Henson.